Until English venues are cleared to host large international groups again, many are focusing on catering to domestic corporate and incentive business, according to feedback from a recent VisitBritain roundtable. Representatives from Scotland, Wales, London, England and Northern Ireland came together during the Meet GB forum to discuss how the United Kingdom is preparing to bounce back from COVID-19.

The Value of CVBs

Despite the challenges COVID-19 has posed for the meetings industry, the group painted a picture what future events will look like. Tracy Halliwell, MBE, director of Tourism, Conventions & Major Events at London Convention Bureau praised the hospitality spirit. “Together, as an industry, we need to have a voice and we need to have one voice saying the same thing. People who are serious about doing business in the future will now see the value of CVBs and associations.”

Eimear Callaghan, business solutions manager with Tourism Northern Ireland spoke to the role that destinations will have in becoming content managers to ensure successful hybrid events and maintain attendee engagement. “As destinations, we have the knowledge of the right people through our Conference Ambassador program and can tap into the connected networks and pull out ideas for content to ensure the hybrid model is a success.”

Read more about the value of CVBs here.

A Focus on Incentives

In a conversation with Smart Meetings, Callaghan expanded on what incentive trips will offer in a post-COVID-19 MICE market. “We envisage the growing need for travel with more meaning and purpose, programs that motivate, educate and have a transformative impact on the explorers.” As travel is sure to be limited in the months to come, quality and meaningful experiences will be more important than ever. Destinations will have to provide a reason for attendees to get on airplanes again. Callaghan cited several experiences, including guided meditation with horses and stargazing through glass-roofed glamping pods as examples of how Northern Ireland is preparing to entice international clients.

Opportunity for Improvement

While the swift shift to online meetings this year was unexpected, the lessons learned during COVID-19 will make the industry stronger according to representatives from across the pond. The use of data to track engagement and the innovation and creativity that has driven online experiences recently will make live events all the more impressive when they return. The increase in technology used by planners could lead to more connected venues. As Neil Brownlee, head of business events at VisitScotland observed, investments in tech were already happening pre-COVID-19. The pandemic has simply increased the speed of innovation. Halliwell similarly mentioned large amounts of investment in venues and hotels in London and said the new importance placed on tech will only add value to event spaces. While the UK and Northern Ireland might not be open for U.S. business quite yet, destinations across the countries are confident that lessons learned during this difficult time will only improve the future of meetings and events.